Saturday, November 06, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 276 (11/6) -- Revolver by Matt Kindt

Violence in American comics is usually deeply stylized, the result of eight decades of iterated attempts to get "serious" to snag older audiences and subsequent retreats to the safe shores of appropriate-for-young-readers bloodlessness. But Matt Kindt comes out of a different, more serious tradition -- none of his people have any superstrength, and bullets wound them, even kill them, quickly. So his take on comics violence owes more to literary fiction, where violence is a sudden, shocking intrusion on the world as we expect it, than it does to anything we're used to seeing under a DC Comics imprint.

Kindt dives into a new genre with Revolver, after the WWII espionage behind most of his earlier work; this is an unabashed science-fictional story, with one man oscillating between two alternate worlds day by day. Sam works as a photo retoucher at the newspaper Post-Dispatch, in Chicago. He's not all that good at it, since he doesn't care about his work, or about much of anything.

But his life is torn in half when he realizes that he's alternating days in different worlds -- one in which everything goes along normally, boringly, and another in which every possible thing is suddenly going wrong at once: major computer worm attacks, multiple deadly pandemic diseases, major terrorist attacks in medium-size cities across America, and a dirty bomb that just wiped out Seattle. Sam is shocked -- more shocked in the normal world, actually, befuddled by the banality of life after the high drama of his other days -- but quickly begins to use what he learns in each world to help him in the other. And there is a connection between the two worlds, of course: Sam has much to learn and a major role to play.

Revolver has been described as reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, but that's mostly in the setup; Sam himself is very much not a Phildickian hero. He's much too active and engaged, and particularly too violent -- he's the product of a culture thirty years later and amped up by a relentless string of explosion-filled movies, all priming him to spring quickly into action-hero mode, even though he has no history with violence. (There may be a bit of audience-identification wish-fulfillment going on there -- though it's also true that nearly all of Kindt's major characters have been remarkably good at violence.)

It's all a bit too patly dualistic -- Sam also oscillates between two women, his girlfriend Maria and his boss Jan, and the linchpin for the separation of these two worlds is another dualistic game -- and the violence does come too easily, and too successfully, for Sam. For all of Kindt's scratchy, battered art, this is a slick story, about a young man secretly at the center of all of the important things happening in his world and how he takes control of it all. Revolver is not as tense or harrowing as Super Spy, but it's still a solid Matt Kindt story about real people in unreal situations, and that's pretty good.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

1 comment:

Michael Barron said...

This sounds really cool. I am definitely going to have to pick it up.

Is there anything else you can recommend that involves characters falling back and forth between alternate worlds/realities? (Books/movies/comics)

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